Blind Loyalty – Why Civil Discourse is Dead

“We, both sides, have become so tied to our ideals that we cannot have a rational discussion about anything that goes against them.”

Blind loyalty involves being loyal to a person or cause despite the damage the person or cause does to himself or herself or others. Excusing bad behavior in the name of protecting allegiance to another seems [honorable] at first, but is ultimately dangerous as silence is a form of collusion. Many people feel torn between retaining loyalty to a cause or group and risking rejection or [ostracism] or personal attack by outing misconduct. Blind loyalty involves a form of cognitive dissonance where a person sees evidence of a problem or bad behavior and then turns a blind eye to the truth in [favor] of keeping a positive image of the person or cause. Knowing in your gut that something is wrong, and yet acting as if everything is fine.”

I wanted to start with this definition so that everyone would know exactly where I am coming from. Blind loyalty is one of the most dangerous faults in human nature. Unfortunately, it is completely natural — unless one understands how it functions, it is easy to fall into its talons without realizing it. I have always believed that loyalty means following your values and ethos. In fact, it is based in evolution — at one time it was key to our survival. Can you imagine how long we would have lasted as a species if we could not form bonds that would overcome our own instinctual need for survival?

The problems come when we stop thinking clearly about an issue, cause, or person and frame everything in absolutes. I am guilty of this myself. My father, who leans more liberal (as in falling over) loves to get me riled up. He will quote some article or news story about how Donald Trump is actually the Grand Dragon Lord of the KKK and is using global warming to destroy the inner cities, all the while funneling weapons that were taken from our military into the hands of the drug syndicates.

Once he has gotten me nice and heated, retorting all of the ridiculousness that has been thrown at the President, he will hit me with something that the President legitimately screwed up — like losing focus on the big picture and tweeting against the media. My initial reaction is almost always to continue the argument.

After all, the media really does have an agenda and it is hard to argue that the main stream outlets do not have a very liberal point of view. Usually, I see it coming and can agree that someone really should be monitoring his twitter account. Other times, I get so caught up in the argument that I find myself debating a point which I am completely against.

The more we are tied to something, the stronger our reaction to it. I believe this is the problem with modern politics. We, both sides, have become so tied to our ideals that we cannot have a rational discussion about anything that goes against them.

Health care is an easy one to point out for the Republican Party. You have Republicans who are true conservatives, they want a total repeal of Obama Care – they want our healthcare industry to be given a chance to compete in a truly free market (which means open competition across state lines, less regulations, etc.). Then you have the ‘Republicats’, those Republicans who are really just Democrats in hiding, who want to simply take out bits and pieces. There is no rational talk between the two sides, both are at war with each other, instead of working unilaterally together.

It gets even easier, and juicer, with the Democrats. They have completely taken the stance of “you are either with me or against me” and there are no shades of grey. Look at their stance on abortion. If you are not prochoice, you shouldn’t be in their party. In fact, during the feminist march in Washington, the organizers actually kicked out a prolife women’s group from their march against Trump. I really love debating this one with people who are on the militant gay front. They scream and shout that gays should have equal rights, to which I ask what rights they don’t have?

Them: Trump wants to take away our right to marry.

Me: Supreme Court already settled that one, federal government can’t touch it.

Them: Gays should be able to adopt children and Pence is not going to allow it.

Me: Adoption is a states right issue and is actually legal in all fifty states. In fact, I think that anyone who would rather see a child grow up within the government run system instead of a loving home has some seriously messed up ideas on what children need in order to be healthy adults.

Them: You shouldn’t be able to refuse to make a wedding cake or take pictures at a gay wedding because of your beliefs.

Me: Even if it is against their first amendment right to be able to practice their religion? Your sexual orientation is more important than their constitutional rights? Plus, why would you want to go to someone who doesn’t respect your values? That would be like me donating to the Democratic Party to show them whose boss. I cannot even begin to follow this logic.

I believe what the movement really wants is to be accepted and treated fairly by everyone without prejudice and judgement. Unfortunately, that is not something that you can legislate. However, their devotion to a cause and the need to defend it drives the movement to make statements which are easily refuted and completely irrational.

Finally, there are those who attempt to push blind loyalty onto others. I have no respect for these individuals in any regard. They see only their own ambitions and demand others fall in line. Loyalty is a two way street. Before you can ask something of someone, you owe it to them to look at the issue from their perspective to determine if you are asking them to violate their loyalties.

The best example I can come up with is from my First Sergeant (1SG) at a training meeting my company was conducting. Despite what the public believes, military recruiters do a pretty good job in being ethical at their job. They risk their career if it is discovered that they violated military regulations, and the upper echelon goes after these cases with an assumption of guilt upon everyone involved.

We need more loyalty to our nation and less blind following of ideologies.

In this case, my 1SG was sitting at home when a very close friend of his called him up and asked him to lie about this individual’s whereabouts on a certain night. Apparently he had sex with someone who was enlisting and needed an alibi to give the investigator. The 1SG cut him off before he got even the first sentence out — he told him that if his friend continued he would personally call up the investigator and let him know what was happening.

Of course, his friend accused him of being disloyal and not caring about their brotherhood. Needless to say, this destroyed their friendship. Yet, as my 1SG told the company, his friend didn’t care that in asking for his blind loyalty, he was asking the 1SG to be disloyal to his own values, the Army, and even his own family. Had he been caught lying it would have cost him his career. Was his friend going to support the 1SGs family?

We need more loyalty to our nation and less blind following of ideologies. This is not to say you should abandon your beliefs, but you should be open to the ideas of others. Listen to what they have to say before you simply shut them out. Open dialog is where some of our greatest wisdom comes from.

After all, the Constitution was not written by a single person – it was built off the ideals of many great minds from around the world.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Matthew Wadler

Matthew Wadler is a U.S. Army veteran. Matt served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring. His service includes time as Military Police, Field Artillery, Adjutant General, and Recruiting. His deployments include Somalia and two tours to Afghanistan. His formal education includes a master’s degree in HR Management. He is a strong supporter of the constitution and advocate for the military and veteran communities. Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewWadler.

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